This is the chapter entitled, Flags of National Defence, from the book,
The Flags of Canada, by Alistair B. Fraser.
This work is copyrighted. All rights reserved.


The Nation
Chap VI:


Better, forty times better,
my banner than my sword.

Joan of Arc
(at her trial in 1431)



It is difficult to imagine the military without flags. In earlier times, flags served to impose order upon battlefield chaos:

In battle all appears to be turmoil and confusion, but the flags and banners have prescribed arrangements.(Sun Tzu, Art of War, c. 700 B.C.)

They served to assure warriors that the cause had not been lost:

The hearts of the soldiers would be filled with fear that their leader had been overcome if they did not see his banner borne aloft .... While that standard remained erect the people had a sure place of refuge. (Itinerary of King Richard, 1191)

And to this day, flags serve as a nucleus around which strongly held ideals congeal:

Have not I myself known five-hundred living soldiers sabered into crows'-meat for a piece of glazed cotton, which they call their Flag; which, had you sold it at any market-cross, would not have brought above three groschen? (Thomas Carlyle, "Symbols"Sartor Resartus c. 1828)

Carlyle's imagery is compelling for it appears to separate the soldier's passionate commitment to the flag, from the civilian's more comfortable patriotism. Yet, the distinction is not as great as it might seem; the vast majority of the servicemen in Canada's wars were neither professionals nor conscripts, but civilian volunteers. The commitment of the military reflects the commitment of the civilians. But, if the citizen has taken his patriotism to war, the compliment has been amply returned as his nationalism was enhanced through the conflict. As Desmond Morton noted in his book, A Military History of Canada, "in important ways, Canada's armed forces and Canada's wars have fostered a sense of national identity and pride."1

In the South African War and the First World War, Canada fought under the Union Flag. In the last two years of the Second World War and during the Korean conflict, she fought under the Canadian Red Ensign. The Gulf War is the first Canada has fought under the Maple Leaf Flag.

However, a national flag is but the first of many used by the military. (Indeed, historically the concept of a national flag itself seems to have arisen from the flags used by the military.) Like flags used elsewhere, military flags are primarily flown as a means of identification, whether of the nation, services, regiments, individuals, facilities, locations, or situations. In a single, remarkable sentence, Francis Grose noted, in 1801, that:

Flags, banners, pencils, and other ensignes, are of great antiquity; their use was, in large armies, to distinguish the troops of different nations or provinces; and in smaller bodies, those of different leaders, and even particular persons, in order that the prince and commander in chief might be able to discriminate the behaviour of each corps or person; they also direct broken battalions or squadrons where to rally, and point out the station of the king, or those of the different great officers, each of whom had his particular guidon or banner, by which means they might be found at all times, and the commander in chief enabled from time to time to send such orders as he might find necessary to his different generals.2

Modern weapons neither allow, nor do modern communications require, flags in active combat. However, with the alteration of a few words (not to mention the punctuation), the 1801 passage would serve to describe the present range of military uses for flags behind the front line.

Like the national flag, many military flags serve to focus strongly held beliefs and ideals with the result that the flag becomes a metaphor for the group's esprit de corps, and, in the process, the flag may even assume an almost mystical role. The motives behind the flag are as important as the motives upon it.


A Few Explanations

It might be assumed that because the Department of National Defence is the title of this chapter, that the flags to be discussed are those of that department. However, in this and the subsequent chapter, government organizations are grouped under the ministry or department to which they report. There seemed to be no good reason to impose a structure upon these organizations that differed from that imposed by the government itself. The flags that follow are principally those of the Canadian Forces and are placed here because the Chief of the Defence Staff reports to the Minister of National Defence.

Although definitions and patterns of usage occasionally change, as they did upon the unification of the forces on February 1, 1968, the flags used by the Canadian Forces can be grouped into the following categories: colours, service flags and jacks, distinguishing flags, camp flags, and special flags. A modest explanation of these categories is offered prior to a discussion of the individual flags.

Colours are consecrated flags which represent a military unit as small as a battalion or as large as a whole service or command. When carried on parade, colours mark and identify the unit to all, but their principal function in modern times is as an embodiment of the soul of the unit. Symbolically, colours represent the unit's pride, honour and devotion to sovereign and country. Obviously, these flags are treated with the utmost respect; they are presented ceremoniously to the unit by the sovereign, her representative (the governor general or a lieutenant-governor), or someone appointed by them, and they are consecrated in a religious service. Differing somewhat in motif, size, shape, and usage, there are both Queen's colours, which identify sovereignty and nationality, and various kinds of unit colours, such as standards, guidons, and either command, college or regimental colours.

Except for the Queen's colours of Maritime Command, all other Queen's colours are presented as part of a pair, or stand, of colours, along with a command (Air Command only), college (there are three military colleges: the Royal Military College of Canada, Royal Roads Military College, and Collège militaire royal de Saint-Jean), or infantry regimental colour. The regimental colour symbolizes the unit's pride in its achievements. Armoured regiments traditionally use only one colour, which has a swallow tail. An exception is the Governor general's Horse Guards which uses the standard, which is rectangular, like a Queen's colour, only smaller. When colours were introduced for flying squadrons of the Royal Canadian Air Force, they followed the pattern newly introduced for squadrons of the Royal Air Force. This pattern is maintained in the air force flying squadrons of today.3

Other than an acknowledgment of the existence of colours, this book will not treat the issue further. They are being omitted from consideration for two reasons: they are not flown on flag poles, or waved on sticks, as are all the other flags mentioned in the book; and they are unique. Their uniqueness must be explained. If you were to make another flag, identical to the National Flag, it would, itself, be the National Flag. One accurate manifestation of the National Flag is as real as any other. This is not so for the colours, guidons, and standards used in the Canadian Forces. A copy of a guidon is not the guidon; it has not been consecrated, and it certainly is not the physical item that had been presented by the sovereign. No matter how accurate the replica, it is not the unit's guidon and so demands no respect whatsoever.

Colours easily deserve a book all to themselves, however lacking that, readers are encouraged to read the chapter, "Flags and Colours," in E.C. Russell's 1980 book, Customs and Traditions of the Canadian Armed Forces.

Service flags and jacks are the main flags by which the Canadian armed services as a whole have been identified. These include the pre-1965 service ensigns such as the White Ensign of the Royal Canadian Navy, the RCAF ensign of the Royal Canadian Air Force, the Canadian Red Ensign and the Second World War battle flag both used to identify the Canadian Army, plus the Canadian Blue Jack used to distinguish the RCN from the RN. Modern flags in this group include the National Flag (when used as a naval ensign), and the Canadian Forces Ensign, both of which are the functional descendants of the old service ensigns. In addition, Maritime Command has two jacks that identify its ships.

Distinguishing flags show the rank or status of an individual in the Armed Forces and are sometimes called rank flags. They are flown to indicate the actual presence of the person in an establishment or on a vehicle, ship or boat.

Camp flags are used to mark the physical location, headquarters, or boundaries of a unit. These flags are flown both in barracks and on manoeuvers, and in the latter case often appear on a small flag staff just outside the senior officer's residence or workplace.

Special flags are so named because they seem to fit nowhere else.

The flags will be discussed by service. Before the unification of the forces in 1968, there were three services and so each will be considered separately; after unification, there was but one service to consider. Canada had a militia long before it had any permanent military services. However, even when regular forces were established shortly after Confederation, the term, militia, was applied to them as well as the part-time forces. From about 1883 until a change in name established the Canadian Army in 1940, the regulars were variously called the Permanent Force, the Permanent Active Militia,4 and, for a short time, the Canadian Active Service Force.5 If we leave aside this problem with nomenclature and its evolutionary beginning, the Canadian Army was the oldest of the three services. Next to be formed was the Royal Canadian Navy in 1910, followed by the Royal Canadian Air Force in either 1918, 1920, or 1924, depending again on how one chooses to handle the shifting sands of nomenclature. If one is too fussy about names, the army unjustifiably is reduced to being the junior service.


The Canadian Army


Terrible as an army with banners.

(Song of Solomon 6,4)

Shortly after Confederation, the British pulled their defensive forces out of Canada. The then Tory chancellor of the exchequer, Benjamin Disraeli, scoffed at the anomaly of what would have been "An army maintained in a country which does not permit us to govern it."6 Some forces of the Royal Navy stayed on at Halifax and Esquimalt until 1905, but these installations were designated "imperial fortresses" whose purpose was clearly distinguished from mere colonial defence. Canada's defence now depended upon its militia.

A citizen army raised under the sanction of the government for the defence of the realm,7 the militia had been a feature of the country since its earliest days. During the French period, the militia comprised every able-bodied man;8 during the British period, it had served as but an auxiliary to the British garrisons.9

The militia sometimes had colours,10 but it appears that in the absence of these, a militia unit would carry either a plain Union Flag or one bearing an inscription. One such flag, known as the Canada Jack, was simply the Union Flag with the word Canada written along the horizontal bar of Saint George's cross. It was carried by forces opposed to the Fenians and by Canadian settlers under the command of Colonel Dennis, when, on December 1, 1869, they attempted to recapture Fort Garry from Louis Riel and the Métis.11 Sometimes, the inscription contained a strictly local reference, such as the flag used by the 13th Battalion Volunteer Militia which had opposed the Fenians at Ridgeway (near Fort Erie, Ontario) in 1866. For years afterwards, they carried a Union Flag with the word Ridgeway on the horizontal and 1866 on the vertical bar of the cross.12

Certainly, if any flag could be said to have been used as the service flag for the army (or the militia as a whole) in the early years, that flag was the Union Flag (commonly called the Union Jack). It flew at the summer militia camps13 both at home and overseas during the First World War. And yet, as early as 1915, a distinctively Canadian flag had become associated in the popular mind, if not with officialdom, with the army. After the heroic Canadian stand at Ypres in April of that year, the British magazine, Punch, published a cartoon by Bernard Partridge showing a Canadian soldier brandishing a (seven-province) ensign. Although this did much to foster the impression that the Canadian Red Ensign was the official flag of the Canadian army,14 the ensign did not perform that function until late in the Second World War.

Upon entering the Second World War, Canada wanted its army to be distinguishable among the great mass of British troops, and so provided it with, not the Canadian Red Ensign, but a new battle flag. Designed by Colonel A. Fortescue Duguid, Director of the Historical Section, National Defence Headquarters, Ottawa, the flag of the Canadian Active Service Force, generally known as the Battle Flag of Canada, was approved by the War Cabinet on December 7, 1939. In the words of Colonel Duguid:

In the second world war, Canadian units did not carry flags or colours. Just before they proceeded overseas I was ordered to produce a suitable flag for the First Canadian Division. I first decided that the most important thing was to make sure of the national colours of Canada and the national device because it seemed to me that they were obviously the main items for any such flag. On looking at the armorial bearings of Canada, the other obvious item was that there were two flags showing, one of which was the Union Jack and the other a blue flag with three fleur-de-lis. So I placed on the white flag with the three maple leaves a Union Flag on the upper corner next to the staff, which was one seventh of the area of the whole flag. Then I wondered how to include the three fleur-de-lis on the blue ground and I found that a proper heraldic method of introducing such a device was to put a circle in the fly. So I put blue circle in the upper fly with three gold fleur-de-lis. I had that made and I handed it to general McNaughton just as he was boarding the train to go overseas with the First Division. That flag was flown, so the record has it, from the merchant ship on which the headquarters of the First Division proceeded overseas. While on board it was blessed and consecrated. On the other side, it was flown in the Headquarters of the First Canadian Division.

When His Majesty the King came to review the First Canadian Division, that flag was flying and the general Officer Commanding the First Canadian Division had a small flag on the cap of his radiator on his car. He had one made very similar to that, a small flag, and presented it to the King who accepted it and I think expressed approval.15

The Battle Flag not only appeared on the Canadian headquarters overseas, it appeared on all manner of promotional material on the home front: pins, postcards, posters, magazine covers, and advertisements. Sometimes it appeared alone, sometimes with the Union Flag to emphasize our solidarity with Britain, and sometimes with the flags of the other services, the RCAF ensign and the White Ensign of the RCN, to tell of our many-sided support for the war.

"The flag," comments historian George F.G. Stanley, "was new. It was distinctive. It contained something to please everybody and represented all aspects of Canada's history. But it was cluttered and never won the affection of the officers and men of Canada's army. Eventually it ceased to be seen."16

Finally, with the routine order of January 22, 1944, the Canadian Red Ensign assumed the role of a service flag for the army:

The Canadian Red Ensign with the Shield of the Coat of Arms of Canada in the fly is to be flown at all units of the Canadian Army serving with forces of other nations.17

For the rest of the war, and indeed until 1965, the Canadian Red Ensign was the service flag of the Canadian army. Of course, the version of the ensign that was introduced in 1944 bore the green leaves of the 1921 interpretation of the Canadian arms. Shortly after 1957, the leaves were changed to red. However, the use of the Union Flag did not vanish at bases on Canadian soil; the order merely specified that the ensign was to be used for "the Canadian Army serving with forces of other nations." As had been done with other governmental institutions, politically sensitive decisions had been avoided by leaving it a matter of local choice whether to use the ensign or the Union Flag. For example, although the ensign was in wide use, the Union Flag remained in extensive use at forts, armouries, and drill halls in Ontario,18 and was always flown at Eastern Command Headquarters in Halifax.19


The Canadian Army


Each Commanding Officer of a Battalion should
have a distinguishing flag erected in front of his tent.

(Regulations and Orders for the Militia, Canada 1883, Paragraph 824)

As is often the case, terminology has changed over the years. In the early years of the Canadian Militia, distinguishing flags did not mark the position of the camp's commanding officer himself, but were flown to mark the position of the command tent or headquarters in much the same way as camp flags are used today. A large regimental camp flag would mark the tent of the commanding officer of a regiment, since by the turn of the century, only one Union Flag was permitted within the camp, and it marked the tent of the commanding officer of the whole camp.

In 1915, general Headquarters authorized the use of distinguishing flags for the commanders of formations. These were to be affixed to motor cars only when the commander was in the car. Although there were modifications to the patterns over the years, the basic flags authorized in 1915 could still be recognized until the 1968 unification. In general, the army's distinguishing flags took the form of a simply divided field of one, two, or three colours, often with a badge in the centre. (After unification, distinguishing flags all took the form of a white ensign with a badge on the fly.)

The flags authorized in 1915 identified a person by the job he was doing, not by the rank he held. The distinguishing flag of the Commander-in-Chief was the Union Flag. A simple bicolour of red over blue identified any one of nearly a dozen senior officers working at the general headquarters (e.g., the Chief of general Staff, the Adjutant general, the Quartermaster general, and their deputies) but who could be individually identified by letters placed on the flag. The commander of an army flew a flag of three horizontal stripes, red, black, red; while the commander of an army corps flew one of red, white, red. A plain, red swallow-tailed flag identified the commander of a division.20

These flags, which had been authorized by the British command, did nothing to distinguish Canadian officers from British ones, so sometimes the Canadians improvised. On August 8, 1918, during the battle of Amiens, the Canadian general, Sir Arthur Currie flew an aberrant Canadian Blue Ensign from his automobile.21

An obvious way to distinguish one division or commander from another was to use a badge. Depending on rank and appointment, Canadian badges took many forms over the years: the full achievement of the Canadian Arms, the shield of the Arms, a golden maple leaf, the Canadian Army Badge, and special badges to represent different geographic commands and areas.

Of these, the Canadian Army Badge deserves special mention here. Approved in 1947 by King George VI, it featured three red maple leaves superimposed upon crossed swords and all surmounted by a crown.22 Crossed swords had long been a symbol associated with the army. Before the turn of the century, army officers afloat would fly a Blue Ensign with crossed swords on the fly.23 Then in 1938, the British adopted an army badge which placed the crest of the Royal Arms upon crossed swords. Acknowledging the historic ties between the two armies, Canadians also adopted the crossed swords, but differentiated them with the three maple leaves from the Canadian arms. These crossed swords reappeared in the Canadian Forces Badge adopted in 1967.


The Canadian Army


Kim laughed uneasily. "I go to look for - for a bull -
a Red Bull on a green field who shall help me."
Rudyard Kipling (1901)

In Rudyard Kipling's famous story, the orphan boy, Kim, had only one clue to enabled him to find his dead father's regiment: a description of what turned out to be the regimental camp flag. At the turn of the century when Kim was written, the Canadian regimental camp flags were red and generally 18 inches square, upon which would be placed the regimental number or badge.25

Comprising both regimental and corps flags, camp flags serve to mark the location of the unit when it was at a military camp or in the field. However, these flags were not the only ones to be found within the camp. Up until and through the First World War, every conceivable position was identified with a special flag: from the general headquarters (the Union Flag), to the veterinary hospital (a small white equilateral triangle on a red field); from the ordnance depot (a white circle on a blue pennant), to the latrine (a white circle on a yellow field for the British, a black circle on a yellow field for natives).26

Over the years, every army corps and regiment developed its own distinctive camp flag. Many of these were carried over unchanged into the Canadian forces, while unification had a marked effect on others. Those mentioned are but a few of the legion in use.

At the time of the unification of the services, eight different military support units were combined into the Logistics Branch, which like its antecedents, were charged with the provision of resources to support the strategy and tactics of combat forces. Of the support units from the three different services, only those in the Canadian Army had distinctive flags: the Pay Corps, the Ordnance Corps and the Service Corps. Those within the RCN used the White Ensign as a single common service flag and those within the RCAF (Food Services, Transportation, Finance, and Supply) used the RCAF Ensign.27

The Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps had the job of supplying the fighting units with the tools of war, things which might range from a shoelace to artillery. Among their responsibilities were mechanical repairs. As a result of the increasing mechanization of the army during the Second World War, it was decided that the electrical and mechanical engineers of the RCOC should form their own corps to be known as the Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers or RCEME. This was to follow a similar transition in the sister organizations in the British Army where REME, the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, had been formed out of the Royal Ordnance Corps.

In 1943, the flag of newly formed British REME, a vertical tricolour of blue, yellow and red, was authorized by for use by the Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps in Europe. A similar flag was used back in Canada, but it contained a green maple leaf at its centre. In Europe, however, the new Ordnance Corps flag soon became confused with similar looking national flags, with the result that when the Canadian unit, RCEME, was formed on May 15, 1944, its flag was formed by rotating the Ordnance Corps (and REME) flag to make a horizontal tricolour of royal blue, over gold, over scarlet. The RCEME flag shown here was homemade out of convoy flags; the presence of a wheel probably indicates a transport unit; such additions, more commonly letters and numbers, are the normal way to indicate a specific unit among all the corps units flying the same basic flag.

In the autumn of 1946, the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps placed its badge in the centre of a vertically divided tricolour of gold, blue and white flag. This flag has had a long history since the (then) Canadian Army Service Corps started using the blue and white flag (based on the colour of their uniforms) of their British counterparts before the First World War. At one stage, to make the flag more attractive, a gold bar was added (based on the gold lace of the tunic). The order of the colours was variable until standardized after the Second World War.28 In 1947 the Director of Ordnance Services proposed a flag for the Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps that was an imitation of the that just adopted by their British counterparts: a Blue Ensign with a badge on the fly. The Canadian proposal, which placed the RCOC badge on a green maple, was approved in 1952.29 The Royal Canadian Army Pay Corps placed their badge in the centre of a flag divided diagonally, yellow over blue.

The Royal Canadian Corps of Signals was the oldest independent communications organization within a Commonwealth army, having been formed on October 24, 1903. Their flag, adopted by the early fifties, was a horizontal tricolour of light blue over dark blue over green (in a ratio of 3:1:3), the corps colours. Sometime later, the corps badge was placed in the centre of the flag where it stayed until the corps was absorbed into the Communications and Electronics Branch upon unification in 1968.

The number of army and regimental camp flags is legion. Shown here as a sampling of a few regimental flags are those of the Royal 22e Régiment, and Les Fusiliers de Sherbrooke.


The Royal Canadian Navy


Let there be some standard in your ship ... such that
you may use it to make known what needs to be done.

Byzantine Emperor Leo VI (886-912 A.D., Basilika)

As with most things in Canada, the Royal Canadian Navy was born in political controversy. In the early years of this century, Britain was preparing for the inevitable war in Europe and it sought Canada's financial support for the Royal Navy. After all, despite her long coasts, her fishing fleets, and one of the largest merchant marines in the world, Canada had been content to rely on the Royal Navy for protection.30 Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier asserted that Canada would establish its own navy rather than send money elsewhere. As Canada's navy would be used to support the British, anti-imperialists opposed it; because it was in lieu of direct support, imperialists opposed it. Only party discipline enabled Laurier to succeed: the Royal Canadian Navy came into existence on May 4, 1910. Tenders were issued for ships and a navy college was established at Halifax. Personnel was borrowed from both the Royal Navy and Canada's Fishery Protection Service.

The flags adopted by the RCN reflected both of these services. The RN flew the White Ensign at the stern of its warships and the Union Flag upon the jack staff at the bow. As was discussed in the chapter on the ensigns, the Fishery Protection Service had used the Canadian Blue Ensign since 1870. The RCN adopted the White Ensign for the stern, and the Blue Ensign to be used as a jack at the bow. The authority for the RCN to use the White Ensign resulted from an agreement at the Imperial Conference of 1911:

All ships and vessels of the Royal Canadian Navy shall fly at the stern the White Ensign as the symbol of the authority of the Crown, and at the Jack Staff the distinctive flag of the Dominion of Canada, such distinctive flag being the Blue Ensign with the arms of the Dominion inset in the fly. The White Pendant will be flown at the Masthead.31

The ardent nationalist, Henri Bourassa, denounced this arrangement in his recently launched paper, Le Devoir. He correctly noted, that if RCN ships wore the White Ensign, in the event of war, they would be as much objects of attack as any ship of the RN.32 One might think that the presence of the Canadian Blue Jack would serve to distinguish ships of the RCN from those of the RN, but a practice continued since the days of sailing ships was for the jack only to be flown when the ship was in harbour. Originally, this was done so as to prevent the jack from fouling the rigging of the headsails.33 If the flags did not serve to distinguish the Canadian ships when at sea, the sailors solved the problem by painting a green maple leaf on the ship's funnel.34 An informal practice during the First World War, the wearing of the green maple leaf as a funnel badge was authorized by the Naval Board during the Second World War.35

The RCN continued using the White Ensign and the Canadian Blue Jack up until the adoption of the Maple Leaf Flag in 1965 at which time the National Flag was adopted both for the ensign and temporarily for the jack.36 While the White Ensign was unchanged during this time, the Blue Jack underwent the same changes as the Blue Ensign: the four-province badge was used on the fly until 1922; thereafter the shield of the Canadian arms was used. The maple leaves on that shield changed from green to red soon after 1957. In naval vessels, the Canadian Blue Jack was the same flag as the Canadian Blue Ensign flown on other governmental vessels, both having a ration of 1:2. In war ships, this Blue Jack was always one size smaller than the White Ensign that flew at the stern.

The authorization of the White Ensign and Blue Jack in 1911 included the statement that "The White Pendant will be flown at the Masthead." The ship's pennant (to use the modern spelling) is the mark of a ship in commission and the symbol of the authority of the captain to command the ship.37 This pennant, also known as the captain's pennant or the mast-head pennant, is really the distinguishing flag of the captain. As such, it will be described below. If a more senior officer in the chain of command were aboard, his distinguishing flag would displace the captain's pennant at the masthead.

Together, the ensign at the stern, the jack at the bow, and a distinguishing flag at the masthead form a part of the ship's suit of colours. (This use of the word colours should not be confused with the same term as applied to the unique flags discussed earlier, as in a stand of colours. Just to heap confusion upon ambiguity, it is fun to note here that the term colours also refers to the time of day, normally 0800, when the flags are hoisted on both HMC ships in harbour and at naval defence establishments.)

In 1965, the National Flag became the ship's ensign, which it remains to this day. In addition, for a period of three years before the unification of the forces in 1968, the National Flag also served as the ship's jack. The lone survivor of the earlier time, the ship's pennant bearing Saint George's cross, continued to be worn until about 1980.38

The RCN had many ships, now known as auxiliary vessels, which were not vessels of war but which played a support role. These vessels flew the Canadian Blue Ensign rather than the White Ensign, and the blue masthead pennant rather than the white pennant. Also bearing Saint George's cross at the hoist, the blue pennant had a blue fly rather than a white one. The auxiliary vessels also flew the Canadian Blue Jack.


The Royal Canadian Navy


Like so many other things in the RCN, the distinguishing flags were adopted without change from the Royal Navy. Only the senior ranks were entitled to, or indeed needed to, be identified by flags. These were the flag officers. Evidence of the antiquity of naval distinguishing flags is their designs, each of which is based upon the old flag of England, the Saint George's cross. In previous centuries, the admiral, vice-admiral, and rear-admiral all flew the same flag, their rank being distinguished only by whether the Saint George's cross was flown on the main, fore, or mizenmast, respectively. This distinction was not possible if a ship had fewer than three masts, and so the practice, which was ultimately adopted by the RCN, arose in which the vice-admiral was distinguished by a red ball in the upper hoist. To this, the rear-admiral added a second red ball in the lower hoist. The commodore, a rank between the rear-admiral and the captain, was identified by broad pennant similar to the flag of the vice-admiral, except it was tapered and had a swallowtail.39

The distinguishing flag of the captain was the captain's pennant, already mentioned. This pennant is a six-foot-long triangular flag with Saint George's cross at the hoist. Its inclusion among the flags of a warship in commission is very old as is evident by the remarks of the Royal Navy chaplain, Henry Teonge. In his journal of February 22, 1676, he wrote:

This day we saw a great deal of solemnity at the launching of a new brigantine .... They hoisted three flags in her .... Then they came out and hoisted a pendant, to signify she was a man-of-war.40

These distinguishing flags continued in use long after the unification of the forces. As the new distinguishing flags were gradually phased in during the late 1970s and early 1980s, the old ones were discontinued.


The Royal Canadian Navy


The Royal Canadian Navy used, and the naval forces continues to use, a group of flags that do not easily fit into other categories. The oldest of these is the church pennant which is hoisted during a divine service aboard ship. The earliest known reference to this flag is 1778, but legend places its origin in the Anglo-Dutch wars of the seventeenth century.41 The pennant has the English Saint George's cross at the hoist and the Dutch tricolour of red over white over blue on the fly. This combination of the flags of the two combatants was hoisted by the ships of both fleets during the divine services that preceded the battle. The flags of both nations, having been sewn together, indicated a truce for the duration of the services; when the pennant was lowered, the battle began.

In January 1942, the Naval Board of Canada was created as an advisory body to the Minister for Naval Services.42 Its flag, approved in 194343 and based on that of the British admiralty, bears a foul anchor (cable entangling the anchor) on a field of crimson over blue divided diagonally from the top hoist to the lower fly. It would be flown either day or night on ships or naval bases when either the governor general or at least two members of the board were present. This flag was last used in May 30, 1960, at the commissioning of HMCS Nipigon; in August of that same year, the Naval Board was dissolved.44

For years the RCN identified the ship in which the squadron commander was embarked by painting a black band at the top of the funnel. In mid-1963, this practice was replaced by the flying of the Command Broad Pennant, a white swallowtail pennant with blue borders top and bottom and a blue squadron number upon it. The modern term for this flag is the Squadron Command Flag. Further, following a practice common to NATO navies since 1950,45 when two or more HMC ships are in port and neither is wearing a command flag, the senior ship hoists the starboard pennant, a tapered flag of green, white, green. In HMC Ships, it is called the SCOPA Pennant (for Senior Canadian Officer Present Afloat). Both the Command Broad Pennant and SCOPA Pennant are still in use.

Another special flag that survived unification is that of the Queen's Harbour Master: a Union Flag with a broad white border and bearing a roundel with a crown above the letters Q.H.M. in the centre. The Queen's Harbour Master, or QHM, is usually a naval commander who not only operates a naval harbour, but also supervises the fleet of auxiliary vessels. Both the office and the flag are inherited from the Royal Navy: the office being known since the 14th century when its holder was known as the "Keeper of the Kyngs Shippes"; the flag being introduced early in this century. In 1939, with the advent of the Second World War, the rapid expansion of the RCN prompted the establishment of a Canadian Naval Auxiliary Service which, at the time was headed by the King's Harbour Master. Before the accession of Queen Elizabeth in 1952, the flag will have used the king's (Tudor) crown and the letters K.H.M.

Afloat, the QHM flag flies at the bow of a boat or vessel to indicate the presence aboard of either the Queen's Harbour Master or his deputy. Ashore, it is flown in only two places in Canada: the Canadian Forces Bases in Halifax and Esquimalt. The flag is unique in the Canadian military as the last one to still incorporate the Union Flag. It is earnestly to be hoped that it will be retained in its present pattern as a link with the past.


The Royal Canadian Air Force


RCAF motto

The Royal Canadian Air Force came into existence on April 1, 1924, but its roots run much deeper. During the First World War, over 20,000 Canadians served as pilots, observers and ground support staff in the British Royal Flying Corps, the Royal Naval Air Service, and, after their amalgamation on April 1, 1918, the Royal Air Force.46 The Canadian contribution was substantial in quantity, where by 1918, 40 percent of the British pilots were Canadians, and in quality, where, four of the top ten aces from both sides of the conflict were Canadians. Among these were Commander Raymond Collishaw, with 60 victories, and the top scoring Imperial ace, Owen Sound native, Billy Bishop, V.C., with 72 victories.47

Only in 1918, was a Canadian Air Force and a Royal Canadian Naval Air Service authorized, but as the war ended without them seeing action, they were quickly disbanded. Out of that experience, the civilian Air Board was established, and upon its recommendation, the Canadian Air Force was reestablished in April 1920. Although the Air Board soon lost its identity as it became absorbed into the newly established Department of National Defence (1922), the CAF went on to gain the designation Royal and on April 1, 1924 became the Royal Canadian Air Force, a name which was lost upon unification in 1968.48

From its formation until 1940, the RCAF ensign was identical to the RAF ensign; thereafter, the RCAF ensign was differentiated by a red maple leaf in the centre of the roundel. Thus, the story of these flags begins with the adoption by the RAF of both their roundel badge and their particular shade of light blue.

The roundel arose from the aircraft markings. By August 1914, the Royal Flying Corps began painting the Union Flag on the under surface of the lower wings, but this proved unsatisfactory as, from a distance, the pattern looked inappropriately similar to the black iron cross markings of the German aircraft. It was better to be confused with allies than enemies, so in October, the British imitated the French, who used a roundel of concentric red, white and blue circles inspired by their revolutionary tricolour. The Royal Flying Corps merely reversed the colour order by putting blue on the outside and red on the inside.49 When the RAF was formed in 1918, it maintained the red within white within dark blue markings, and this roundel subsequently appeared on their ensign. However at this point, the justification for the colours was reinterpreted to recall the red of the army (the Royal Flying Corps) and the blue of the navy (the Royal Navy Air Service) from whence the RAF had sprung.

One might think that the choice of a light blue colour for both the uniforms and the ensign of the air force was dictated by the aesthetics of the medium in which they operated, and indeed some books make this claim. Naval uniforms were the deep blue of the sea; clearly air-force uniforms should be the light blue of the sky. The facts behind the choice (if facts they be) were less poetic, but far funnier. The story, which has surfaced from many quarters, will be told in the words of the membership manual of the Royal Canadian Air Force Pre-War Club of Canada:

Blue uniforms were officially adopted for wear by members of the Royal Air Force in March 1918. A legend attributes the adoption of blue uniforms to the Russian debacle [revolution] of 1917. The Russians had ordered vast quantities of blue cloth for their cavalry. A million yards of it lay in British warehouses undelivered. It was unsuitable for dying either khaki or navy blue, so it was appropriated for Air Force uniforms. Air Force blue uniforms first made an appearance in October 1919. Since then, Commonwealth European and United States air forces have adopted air force blue.50

The establishment of the ensign of the new service was not easy. The British admiralty controlled the adoption of such flags, and, during 1920, they rejected several proposed designs for the new flag. Their not unreasonable objection was that the light blue requested was visually similar, and heraldically identical, to the darker field of the Blue Ensign.51 After all, flags could not serve to identify if they were indistinguishable. Unsatisfied, the RAF sought and received approval directly from King George V, at which point the admiralty just had to accept the fait accompli.52 The resulting ensign had a field of RAF blue, the Union Flag in the canton, and a large RAF roundel on the fly.

In February 1921, the recently formed Canadian Air Force received a description of the new flag. Immediately, the question arose as to a suitable ensign for the C.A.F. The Officer Commanding, Air commodore Arthur Kellam Tylee, promptly scribbled a note to the Inspector general, Air Vice Marshal Sir Willoughby Gwatkin:

Think we should have an ensign. Could we adopt R.A.F. as is with addition say of a maple leaf in the inner circle? I know very little about the design of flags. A.K.T. 18.2.21

Despite the caveat about flags, Tylee did understand Canadian predilections. However, his prescient idea was soon snuffed out (only to reappear at the beginning of the Second World War). At first Gwatkin was persuaded by Tylee's idea. He wrote an unofficial inquiry to the British Air Marshal, Sir Hugh Trenchard: Would the RAF object to the CAF using a modified version of their ensign? Trenchard's response, that

We want if possible to retain the sentiment of unity between the Air Services of the Empire, and I think that for this purpose it would be better to keep the three roundels intact

was redolent of the admiralty's earlier objection to the placement of a Canadian badge upon the red ensign. Thirty years earlier the wording had been, "there are not unimportant objections to interference with the simplicity and uniformity of national colours." But the Empire was slipping away. These appeals for an adherence to a British-made uniformity could not be sustained forever. However, for now, a persuaded Gwatkin made a formal request53 with the result that Winston S. Churchill, then Secretary of State for the Colonies, wrote to the governor general, Lord Byng, on October 22, 1921, that54

The Air Council are most happy to accede to the request that the Canadian Air Force be granted permission to use, 'without difference', the ensign of the Royal Air Force.

The CAF had an ensign and at Camp Borden on November 30, 1921 it was dedicated and hoisted before 45 officers, and 169 airmen. Overhead AVRO training aircraft circled and dipped a salute. Present at the ceremony was a man who would play a role in the choice of distinguishing flags in the Second World War, Wing Commander Robert Leckie.55

Just as the CAF was transformed into the RCAF by the grant of the title, Royal, on April 1, 1924, so too, the CAF ensign was transformed into the RCAF ensign, and that is how things stood until the Second World War.

Hard on the heels of the creation of a distinctive battle flag for the Canadian Army, the Department of National Defence sought a distinctive ensign for the RCAF. Rejuvenating Arthur Tylee's earlier suggestion, they proposed

the substitution of a red maple leaf for the red centre of the roundel in the present ensign, this leaf to be of the same design as the centre leaf at the bottom of the shield of the armorial bearings of Canada. The maple leaf would be approximately the same dimensions as the red roundel.

Although legally the new ensign could be effected by the governor-in-council in Canada just as had been done for the battle flag, the design of the new RCAF ensign was so similar to the existing RAF ensign that courtesy demanded approval from the government of the United Kingdom. This received, the new RCAF ensign was given royal assent on July 5, 1940.

The proposal that the maple leaf in the centre of the roundel be the same design as those in the Canadian arms was often lost on flag manufacturers, who produced a bewildering array of designs, one of which looked like a star. Another manufacturer seems to have misinterpreted the reference and inserted the three leaves from the arms into the roundel. There is no evidence that the shape of the leaf was changed to match that of the National Flag in 1965. Three years later, upon unification, the old RCAF ensign was retired, but it lives on among veterans, is the flag of the RCAF Association, and remains a popular item of sale in flag shops to this day.


The Royal Canadian Air Force


From the time it adopted the RAF ensign as its own, the Canadian Air Force also adopted the distinguishing flags of the RAF. Five days before the ensign was raised there in 1921, Camp Borden was sent both a Wing Commander's flag and a Squadron Leader's flag.56 All of the distinguishing flags had a light blue field with a dark blue edge top and bottom. Through the centre, horizontal red strips were used to indicate any one of eight ranks ranging from Squadron Leader to Air Marshal.57

These distinguishing flags continued to be used by the RCAF up until the adoption of their new ensign in 1940 at which time a change was proposed that would have merely placed a golden maple leaf in the centre of each flag, possibly in imitation of a practice used in the Canadian Army. Air Commander Robert Leckie "heartily disagreed with this whole proposal" as producing indistinguishable distinguishing flags. Based on the badge of rank on RCAF uniforms, his alternative design "at once serves to indicate: (a) The Service. (b) The rank of the Officer flying the flag. (c) The Canadian nationality."58 He proposed a flag similar to the new RCAF ensign except that at the hoist, in place of the Union Flag, were a series of vertical red bars. The wider and more numerous the bars, the higher the rank. His suggestion was adopted and formed the basis of the RCAF distinguishing flags for the next quarter century.


The Defence Research Board

On April 1, 1947 the Defence Research Board was created to consolidate and preserve the diverse efforts at weapon and defence research that had been carried out during the Second World War. Functioning virtually as a fourth service, it was absorbed into the combined structure of the Department of National Defence upon unification in 1968. In 1950 it adopted a badge consisting of an armillary sphere to represent research, and the naval, mural, and astral crowns, to represent the three services. The Defence Research Board used two flags approved by the Queen in 1952: on land, the badge was displayed on a red field; at sea, the badge was place upon a Blue Ensign.59


The Canadian Forces

unbridled enthusiasm led not a few individuals, units and ships
to break out their new flags in advance of the officially designated date.
(Lieutenant-Colonel N.A. Buckingham, CD
describing reaction to the new ensign and jack)

The Canadian military entered the 1960s as three services, the army, navy, and air force, but left the decade unified as the Canadian Forces. The effect on the valued traditions of the three services was cathartic as the trappings of their distinctive identities were combined. A common command structure and new uniforms produced an understandable shower of objections from the servicemen as well as and numerous protest resignations from the senior ranks.

Some advantages to unification were obvious to all. Certainly, effectiveness would increase with many units, such as the service corps and the medical branch, which had the job of providing similar support for all three services. However, it seems that unification was also driven by Defence Minister Paul Hellyer's desire to mark himself as the obvious successor to Prime Minister Lester Pearson.61 Certainly, Hellyer left a wide wake, but it did not point toward the PM's job. Indeed, a 1980s retrospective vindicates some of the original objections to unification as is evidenced by both the recent books which attempt to revitalize the old traditions, the quiet return to distinctive uniforms for the various fighting forces, and the rejuvenation of the old naval ranks.

In the midst of the planning for the military upheaval, the National Flag was born. Consequently, within a span of three years, not only were the British-style uniforms replaced by something that were more characteristic of those of the Americans,62 but the dominance of the Union Flag vanished. This double break with the past produced striking transformations in many of the flags of the military in Canada, with marked changes in the service flags and smaller changes in camp flags.

Much of the discussion which follows in this chapter is based upon the government publication, Flags, battle honours and other honorary distinctions of the Canadian Forces. Prepared by the Directorate of Ceremonial at the National Defence Headquarters, this useful manual should be consulted for further information on both the design and proper use of flags by the Canadian Forces.63


Canadian Forces


Even though unification in 1968 transformed the three services into one, the introduction of the National Flag in 1965 left the Canadian Forces with two service flags: one for use at sea, the National Flag itself, and one for use on land, the Canadian Forces Ensign. The British practice, followed earlier, had been to use a different flag (the White Ensign) at sea than on land. Canada now followed the practice of France and the U.S.A. and used the National Flag as a ensign for ships of war.

While the National Flag serves to identify the country, it does not unambiguously identify the military. This problem was solved with the introduction of two new flags on April 13, 1968: the Canadian Forces Ensign and the Naval Jack.64

The ensign is the service flag for the whole of the Canadian Forces. It is flown on land at all Armed Forces establishment where it should only appear in conjunction with the National Flag. The Canadian Forces Ensign has a white field with the National Flag in the canton and the Armed Forces badge on the fly. The badge, which was approved by the Queen in 1967, displays the crossed swords of the army, the foul anchor of the navy and the soaring eagle of the air force. This pattern is surrounded with ten red maple leaves and surmounted by a crown. This distinctive flag has found wide support within the forces.

Before 1965, the function of distinguishing Canadian vessels as warships had been performed by the Canadian Blue Jack. Then, for three years, the National Flag assumed the job of both the jack and the ensign, after which the new Naval Jack took over. Like the Canadian Forces Ensign, this flag has a white field, the National Flag in the canton and a badge on the fly. The badge, entirely in blue and surmounted by a naval crown, symbolizes the dual air and sea nature of the maritime forces by combining the foul anchor with the soaring eagle. It was first used on HMC ships on March 13, 1968.

If the Naval Jack distinguishes warships, what distinguishes all of the Canadian Forces auxiliary vessels? These vessels are neither merchantmen nor warships, but consist mainly of floating cranes, tugs, fire boats and harbour ferries which provide support for the commissioned warships. This problem was solved on February 15, 1979, when the Auxiliary Vessels Jack was introduced. Based on the Naval Jack, this handsome flag merely reverses the colours of the field and badge. The tradition continues that jacks are normally flown only when a ship is in harbour, or when dressed with masthead flags.


Canadian Forces


New distinguishing flags for the Canadian Forces were introduced beginning in 1975, but in practice, the transition from the old flags to the new ones was gradual. All of the flags have a white field, the National Flag in the canton, and a badge on the fly. The shape of the flag distinguishes the appointment rank of the general officer or naval equivalent: rectangular for a general, an admiral, lieutenant-general or vice-admiral; a swallowtail for the major-general or rear-admiral; and a pennant swallowtail for the brigadier-general or commodore. Commanders of functional commands or formations, and lieutenant-generals (or equivalent) at National Defence Headquarters have a badge on the fly of their distinguishing flags to indicate their specific appointment. The badges used are the same as, or a derivative of, the badge of the command or formation. A guide to these latter badges can be found in the government publication Badges of the Canadian Forces.65

In the Canadian forces, a headquarters uses the same badge as the formation it commands. Thus, the badge used at the National Defence Headquarters (NDHQ) in Ottawa is based upon the Canadian Forces badge. For the Chief of Defence Staff, who is an admiral or a general, the unmodified Canadian Forces badge is used, which makes this distinguishing flag the CF ensign itself. For a vice-admiral or lieutenant-general at NDHQ, the wreath of red maple leaves around the badge is absent.

The badge used on the distinguishing flag of the Commander, Maritime Command, a golden version of the foul anchor and eagle used on the Naval Jack, is the central device of his command badge. The distinguishing flags of the commanders of other commands and formations follow a similar pattern: Mobile Command uses the National Maple Leaf encompassed by four arrow heads; Air Command, a golden eagle rising from a Canadian astral crown; CF Training System, a golden lamp of learning; Northern Region, a polar bear; and Communications Command, two electrical flashes crossed in saltire (forming an X) with the upper three quadrants occupied by the national maple leaf; and Canadian Forces Europe, the national maple leaf charged with the NATO star.

The commanders of subordinate formations within these commands or formations may have their own badges which appear on their distinguishing flags. Examples shown are the Maritime Air Group of Maritime Command, and the Air Transport and the Air Defence Groups of Air Command.

Two additional distinguishing flags complete the roster for the Canadian Forces. A white pennant bearing the National Maple Leaf is used by those below general officer rank for officers holding specific command appointments, such as that of a base commander. An elongated version of this same flag forms the new captain's pennant which, in the early 1980s, replaced the old version bearing the Saint George's cross at the hoist.

Finally, although not a distinguishing flag of the Canadian Forces per se, a miniature National Flag is used by both the Prime Minister and the Minister of National Defence when they are aboard vehicles, aircraft or boats.


Canadian Forces:


With the amalgamation of many of the old services and corps, many new camp flags came into being. The most important of them are the command flags, of which there are now four: Maritime, Air, Communications, and the support formation commanded directly from National Defence Headquarters by the Material Staff. Although they are the descendants of the old naval and air-force service ensigns, they do not inherit all of the status of these obsolete flags. As was noted earlier, the Canadian Forces Ensign is the modern counterpart of the old service ensigns.

On April 1, 1984, on the sixtieth anniversary of the founding of the RCAF, the Air Command Flag was raised at air bases and stations throughout Canada. The flag, based on the old RCAF Ensign, has a sky-blue field. However, the Union Flag has been replaced by the Maple Leaf Flag, and the maple leaf in the centre of the roundel is now in the style of the National Flag. Accepted with enthusiasm, the Air Command Flag is flown at air bases along with the National Flag and the CF Ensign, and a desktop version is often to be seen in the offices of the Air Command personnel.

Although ships wore the Naval Jack since 1968, its use on land was restricted. Then in 1985, for the occasion of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the formation of the Royal Canadian Navy, the Naval Jack assumed the additional happy role of the command flag of Maritime Command.

Camp flags fly over each of the three military colleges: the Royal Military College in Kingston, Royal Roads in Esquimalt, and the Collège militaire royal de Saint-Jean. The one with the oldest flag by far is RMC which probably was in use in the early years of this century, but just when is uncertain owing to a fire that destroyed the records. The RMC flag has played two surprisingly important roles in Canadian symbolism. First, its dominant colours, red and white, were chosen in 1921 as the national colours of Canada, although the inspiration for these colours on the RMC flag was almost assuredly the ribbon of the general Service medal of 1899. Second, the design of the National Flag itself was inspired by the RMC flag.

The design of the flags of the two other military colleges imitates the RMC flag. Instead of a red field, CMR, as a school formally administered by the RCAF, chose sky blue; while Royal Roads, as a old RCN school, chose naval blue. These flags were adopted in 1985 and 1986 respectively.

There is a curious pecuniary distinction to be made between the command and college flags just discussed and all of the following camp flags. The former are paid for out of public funds, the latter out of private funds. As a result, there are some camp flags which have been approved, but for which no money has been found to enable their production. The units whose flags must be privately funded include branches (descendants of the old army corps), field formations, regiments, and service battalions. A sampling of these follows.

The Logistics Branch, which had been formed out of many different support units upon unification, adopted a flag which was approved by the Chief of Defence Staff in 1980. It places the Logistics badge upon the central red bar of five vertical bars: navy blue, white, army red, white, air-force blue. The off-white, representing the Logistics Branch, serves to link the other services.

A flag with a lineage stretching back to the Second World War is that of the Land Electrical and Mechanical Engineering (LEME) Branch. After unification, on January 1, 1970, The Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, RCEME, became Land Ordinance Engineering, LORE, and, as it had taken over the Mobile Support Squadron of the RCAF, a fourth light blue strip was added at the base of the RCEME flag discussed earlier. The first of these flags was presented to 202 Workshop on June 3, 1977. On May 15, 1984, a name change turned LORE Branch into the LEME (Land Electrical and Mechanical Engineering) Branch.

The Communications and Electronics Branch was formed from the Supplementary Radio System of the RCN, the Telecommunications Branch of the RCAF, the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals, and some members of RCEME. Of these only the latter two had distinctive flags. The new flag of the Communications and Electronics Branch, approved in January, 1977, is a horizontal bicolour of French grey over dark blue. The colours have no historical significance, but were adopted so as to establish a new tradition.

The flag of the Security Branch, adopted in June 1976, has a white field and a red pale upon which is placed its badge. It appears to have been created by reversing the colours of the RMC flag. Prominent on the badge of the Security Branch is the thunderbird of the west coast Indian tribes, which, among other attributes, was a protecting spirit credited with guarding a tribe from evil and misfortune. The use of this flag is widespread as it appears in the security offices of Canadian Embassies throughout the world.

The Canadian Forces Intelligence Branch was formed from the Canadian Corps of Guides, the Intelligence Corps and the Canadian Forces Security Branch. The flag branch bears the colours scarlet, dark green and white which respectively denote its three parents. First flown on October 29, 1982, at the CF School of Intelligence and Security when the Branch was inaugurated, the flag bears the silver north star from the old Intelligence Corps badge in its centre.

The Royal Canadian Infantry Corps was formed in 1942, but it did not have its own camp flag until 1980. It is based on the flag flown by the Royal Canadian School of Infantry and shows a bayonet upon a golden maple leaf in the centre of a field divided into red and white quarters. The bayonet is the one carried by the Canadian Infantrymen when the corps was formed.

The Canadian Forces Medical Services is divided diagonally with dull cherry red in the upper hoist and deep green in the lower fly. The badge of the Medical Services is placed in the upper hoist. This flag, first flown in 1978, is based on that of the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps which was also divided diagonally but in the other direction: red on the upper fly and blue on the lower hoist. The badge of the RCAMC was placed in the centre of the flag.

The flag of the Military Engineering Branch, approved in 1976, has a blue field divided by two vertical red bars. The original intention had been to place the branch badge in the centre of the flag, but the idea withered with an estimate of the cost of this added complexity.

Also illustrated are the flags of the Canadian Airborne Regiment, The Royal Canadian Regiment, the 1st Regiment of the Royal Canadian Horse Artillery, and, as an anomaly, Camp Petawawa's unofficial camp flag. The number of camp flags is legion; this is but a sampling.


The Cadet Corps

There is no doubt that compulsory cadet service
in the schools or educational houses of our country is most beneficial
as it teaches the young men the lesson of patriotism and citizenship
and teaches them to have a sane mind in a sound body.
Armand Lavergne (1910)

Canada has offered its young people military training since before Confederation. Beginning with the Drill Associations in 1862, and the renamed Cadet Corps in 1896, the program has had a variety of objectives, one of which was clearly the preparation of teenagers for the defence of the nation.67 However, the societal benefits of citizenship training and patriotism have long been deemed important advantages of cadet training.

Although Cadet Corps do not form part of the Canadian Armed Forces, they have always been closely associated with them, at first being supervised by the Department of the Militia and Defence and now by the Department of National Defence. Since the end of the war, distinctive flags have been developed for all cadet branches. However, during the time of the reorganization of the Canadian Armed Forces in the mid-to late sixties, the Cadet Corps were temporarily left out, as they continued to use their old uniforms and flags into the seventies.

In the early years, cadet corps would carry the Union Flag without any inscriptions upon it. Since 1944, the Royal Canadian Army Cadets have had a Camp Flag which places their badge, a red maple leaf bearing a crown and the letters RCAC, upon a white field. In addition, they have an Army Cadet Flag (to be distinguished from the Camp Flag) and Banner. These latter two play roles parallel to that of colours in the regular forces: the flag serves as a unit colour for individual cadet corps, and the banner imitates a command colour for the corps as a whole. As colours lie outside the purview of this book, these two flags will not be treated here either.

The Sea Cadets used a variety of flags in their history: some corps flew the White Ensign until 1929; they then used the Canadian Blue Ensign and the flag of the Canadian Navy League until 1953. In that year, the Chief of Naval Service approved a design for the Royal Canadian Sea Cadet Flag: a white flag with the Union Flag in the canton, and, on the fly, the badge of the Cadets, a gold anchor on a blue roundel surrounded by red maple leaves and surmounted by a Naval Crown. In 1976, the Sovereign approved a new design which replaced the Union flag in the canton with the Maple Leaf Flag.

The original Air Cadet Ensign was approved by King George VI in 1941. It had the light blue field of the RCAF. ensign, the Union Flag in the canton and, in the fly, the badge of the Cadet Corps, a dark blue roundel with, in gold, soaring eagle surmounted by a maple leaf. Thirty year later, in 1971, the Maple Leaf Flag displaced the Union Flag in the canton.


International Flags served under

The flag of the United Nations Organization came into use in 1947. Since then it has become recognized by all countries of the world as a flag of truce and peace. From the early 1950s, Canada's Armed Forces have been involved in peace-keeping roles for the United Nations. The flag is light blue with a white a map of the world centered around the North Pole and flanked by olive branches.

The flag of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is dark blue with a four-pointed north star, outlined in white, in the centre. This flag will be seen flying on Canadian Naval Ships during NATO naval manoeuvers or at Canadian Forces Bases in NATO countries.


This is the chapter entitled, Flags of National Defence, from the book,
The Flags of Canada, by Alistair B. Fraser.
This work is copyrighted. All rights reserved.



1. Desmond Morton, A Military History of Canada (Edmonton: Hurtig, 1985), p. xiii.

2. Francis Grose, Military Antiquities (London, 1801), Vol. 2, p. 51.

3. Flags, Ensigns, Colours, Pennants and Honours for the Canadian Forces (Ottawa: Department of National Defence, 1980), (A-AD-200-000/AG-000) 194 pp.

4. Richard A. Preston, "Militia and Army" The Canadian Encyclopedia (Edmonton: Hurtig, 1985), p. 91.

5. C.P. Stacey, The Canadian Army (Ottawa: King's Printer, 1948), p. 3.

6. Morton, A Military History of Canada, p. 91.

7. Journal of the Society for army Historical Research, 2 (1932), p. 252.

8. G.F.G. Stanley, "The Canadian Militia During the Ancien Regime" Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research, 22 (1943/44), p. 159.

9. Morton, A Military History of Canada, p. 90.

10. For example: The colours of the 3rd Regiment York Militia which were defenders of York during the American capture on April 27, 1813, were made by the local ladies and had been consecrated in January, 1813, by Dr. Strachan and presented by Miss Powell, the daughter of the Honourable Mr. Justice Powell. See Willis, Ronald E., Historical Flags of Canada (unpublished ms in the Public Archives of Canada, 1962), p. 9.

11. Ronald E. Willis, Historical Flags of Canada, p. 12.

12. Willis, Historical Flags of Canada, p. 13.

13. The King's Regulations and Orders for the Militia of Canada, 1904 (Ottawa: Government Printing Bureau, 1904), Regulation 303.

14. N.A. Buckingham, "Canadian Forces Ensign and Naval Jack" Heraldry in Canada, 2, 1 (March 1968), pp. 13-15.

15. The testimony of Colonel Archer Fortescue Duguid to the 1964 Parliamentary flag committee, as quoted by John Ross Matheson, Canada's Flag: A Search for a Country (Boston: G.K. Hall, 1980), pp. 106-107. Also see Duguid's article, "The flag of the Canadian Active Service Force," The McGill News (Montréal: McGill, Spring 1940). Duguid's design for the 1939 Battle Flag was not new. In 1924, he had submitted it as a proposed national flag during the flag controversy. See, the National Archives of Canada: RG 24, Vol. 24, File HQC 50-1-39.

16. George F.G. Stanley, The Story of Canada's Flag (Toronto: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 1965), p. 45.

17. John Ross Matheson, Canada's Flag: A Search for a Country (Boston: G.K. Hall, 1980), pp. 39, 40.

18. A letter from Major G.N. Chambers, of the Headquarters Eastern Ontario Area, Kingston on May 23, 1943 proclaimed that forts, armouries and drill halls and other buildings of the Canadian Army should continue to fly the Union Flag rather than use the Canadian Red Ensign. See the Eastern Ontario Militia Area file 1425-1, DHist call No 325.009CD717 (Ottawa).

19. Buckingham, "Canadian Forces Ensign and Naval Jack."

20. A letter from A. Fortescue Duguid, dated September 29, 1926, and found in the National Archives of Canada, RG 24, Volume 1764, File DHS 12-10.

21. Sir Arthur Currie's Canadian Blue Ensign is preserved in the Canadian War Museum: Catalogue Number 27 1 12.

22. E.C. Russell, Customs and Traditions of the Canadian Armed Forces (Ottawa: Deneau, 1980), p. 148.

23. Colin Campbell, "The flag of our country" Canadian Almanac (Toronto: Copp, Clark, 1894), p. 197.

24. Rudyard Kipling, Kim (London: Macmillan, 1901), p. 23.

25. The King's Regulations and Orders for the Militia of Canada, 1904 (Ottawa: Government Printing Bureau, 1904), Regulations 303, 383.

26. Field Service Pocket Book, 1911 (London: HMSO, 1911), Plate at the end of the book. See also the F.S.P.B, 1914 or 1916, Plate 21.

27. A Handbook on the Canadian Forces Logistics Branch (Ottawa: DND, A-LM-031-000/AG-000, 1983), Section 5, Annex C.

28. Arnold Warren, Wait for the Waggon: The Story of the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1961), pp. 369-70.

29. The Royal Canadian Ordnance Corps flag was promulgated in Appendix "A" to CAO 54-3 on December 1, 1952. See File 325.009(D783), Directorate of History, DND, Ottawa.

30. Morton, A Military History of Canada, p. 125.

31. Canadian Order-in-Council PC 2843 of December 16, 1911. Published in the Canada Gazette on December 30, 1911.

32. Morton, A Military History of Canada, p. 126.

33. R.G Lowry, The Origins of Some Naval Terms and Customs (Sampson Low, Marston, 1930), pp. 52-53.

34. Joseph Stephenson, a letter to Crowsnest (June 1957), p. 15-16, and A.J.A. Bell, a letter to Crowsnest (December 1957), p. 3.

35. Russell, Customs and Traditions, p. 144.

36. Graeme Arbuckle, Customs and Traditions of the Canadian Navy (Halifax: Nimbus, 1984), pp. 31, 33.

37. Russell, Customs and Traditions, p. 163.

38. Graeme Arbuckle, Customs and Traditions, p. 33.

39. Colin Campbell, "The flag of our country" Canadian Almanac (Toronto: Copp, Clark, 1894), p. 196.

40. Henry Teonge, The Diary of Henry Teonge, Chaplain on Board H.M.'s Ships Assistance, Bristol and Royal Oak, 1675-1679 (London: Routledge 1927), p. 128.

41. E.M.C. Barraclough and W.G. Crampton, Flags of the World (London: Warne, 1978), p. 36.

42. R.C.N. Monthly Review (Ottawa: January 1942), p. 25.

43. "Canadian Flags and Badges," Canadian Almanac & Directory for 1964 (Toronto: Copp Clark, 1964). pp. 336-7.

44. Graeme Arbuckle, Customs and Traditions, p. 29.

45. Timothy Wilson, Flags at Sea (London: Her Majesty's Stationary Office, 1986), p. 112.

46. S.F. Wise, "Air Force" The Canadian Encyclopedia, 1 (Edmonton: Hurtig, 1985), pp. 92-93.

47. George Drew, Canada's Fighting Airmen (Toronto: Maclean, 1930), pp. 3-5.

48. S.F. Wise, "Air Force" The Canadian Encyclopedia.

49. Russell, Customs and Traditions, p. 143.

50. Royal Canadian Air Force Pre-War Club of Canada: Membership 1987-88 (Ottawa, 1987), p. 10.

51. Royal Canadian Air Force Pre-War Club of Canada, p. 11.

52. In a letter from British Air Marshal Sir Hugh Trenchard to Canadian Air Vice Marshal Sir Willoughby Gwatkin on June 24, 1921. (Ottawa: NDHQ, Directorate of History, HQ 601-4B-8, Vol 1).

53. History of the RCAF. Ensign (Ottawa: NDHQ, Directorate of History, 181.003 (D254), n.d.).

54. Despatch dated 1921 October 22 (No. 578).

55. Despatch dated September 7, 1921 (No. 531).

56. Letter dated November 25, 1921 (Ottawa: NDHQ, Directorate of History, HQ 601-4B-8, Vol 1).

57. J.H. Witherow, "Flags in the R.A.F." The Flag Bulletin, XXIII, 5 (1984), pp. 164-74.

58. Robert Leckie, Air commodore, A.M.T., A memorandum dated December 19, 1940, (Ottawa: NDHQ, Directorate of History, HQ-601-4B-3).

59. "Canadian Flags and Badges," Canadian Almanac & Directory for 1964 (Toronto: Copp Clark, 1964), pp. 336-7.

60. Buckingham, "Canadian Forces Ensign and Naval Jack."

61. Morton, A Military History of Canada, p. 250.

62. Morton, A Military History of Canada, p. 252.

63. Flags, battle honours and other honorary distinctions of the Canadian Forces (Ottawa: Department of National Defence, 1988), Publication A-PD-200-000/AG-000. The present version is greatly improved over the one released in 1980.

64. Canada Gazette, 15 (April 1968).

65. Badges of the Canadian Forces (Ottawa: Minister of Supplies and Services, 1977), CFP 267.

66. Morton, A Military History of Canada, p. 123.

67. "A brief History of The Royal Canadian Army Cadets," Banner Presentation to the Royal Canadian Army Cadets (1985), 10 pp.


This is the chapter entitled, Flags of National Defence, from the book,
The Flags of Canada, by Alistair B. Fraser.
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